home about email troops current news troops say thanks contact site map
Show Your Support Program Materials America Reaches Out Kids Take Action The Troops Respond
America Reaches Out - News Articles
Medical Assistance Aids Filipino Community

By Marine Lance Cpl. Christina Noelia Gil/Marine Forces Pacific, Public Affairs

SAPANG BATO, May 12, 2009 - Civilian and military medical specialists from Japan, Australia, Indonesia and Papua-New Guinea provided much-needed care to a community May 4 here as part of the 2009 Association of Southeast Asian Nations Regional Forum Voluntary Demonstration of Response on Disaster Relief.

The ARF-VDR on DR is a field exercise of combined, multinational activity intended to demonstrate the capabilities of more than 20 countries involved to effectively work together in response to natural disasters and other crises that may threaten public safety and health.

The location was chosen due to the large amount of residents who were displaced by the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in 1991. Because of their location and distance from major cities, regular health care is not easily accessible.

"We see great need in this community and that gives us an opportunity to reach as many people as we can," said Philippines armed forces Maj. Vicente Magaro, the lead planner for the medical work group. "Over the next few days we expect to help hundreds of people who are still living the aftermath of the eruption (of Mount Pinatubo)."

The care provided included tooth extractions, minor surgeries, circumcisions and immunizations for children. Over-the-counter medications were also given out for minor ailments.

"We're here to provide medical services to a community in need all while showing how all our countries can come together in the event of a disaster," said Lt. Col. John Waite, the 13th Air Force chief medical operations officer from Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii. "We want to be of service to as many people as possible during our brief time here and show the Philippine people who we care."

The air component participation in ARF-VDR on DR was planned and organized by 13th Air Force officials. This participation included a flight surgeon, a nurse, an optometrist, a biomedical engineer, a public health specialist and a pharmacy technician to support the medical mission here.

The gratitude of the community was felt by the medical specialists on site.

"Just seeing the smiles on the kids' faces and the sincere appreciation from their parents is enough to let me know we're making a difference," Colonel Waite said.

The representatives from each nation worked together through language barriers and varying protocols for the cause, a small step to ensuring seamless teamwork in the future.

"It's better that we learn now to work through barriers than wait until a disaster hits and jump into it. By adjusting to the different ways we operate, we can learn to work as one team. So far, it's been going smoothly," Major Magaro said. "Disasters will happen and alone, we cannot fully recover when we are devastated by natural disasters. There is something every country here can bring to the table to ensure the most efficient response."

Through May 8, the ARF-VDR participants provided medical care in various Philippine communities. 

"It is through humanitarian aid like this that we can spread peace in our world," Major Magaro said. "It's a ripple effect when one person tells another about the great things being done through multinational efforts."

Along with the medical projects, the field exercise involved engineering projects such as reconstructing buildings and building covered walkways for local elementary schools. The ARF-VDR on DR was a four-day exercise designed to enhance the ability of the ASEAN Regional Forum to develop tangible outcomes for disaster relief and transnational security cooperation.